Good riddance, Westfield; sale of mall good for Crestwood

By MIKE ANTHONY

We couldn’t be more pleased with the news that two commercial-property companies — Centrum Properties of Chicago and New York-based Angelo, Gordon & Co. — have purchased the Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood.

We say good riddance to Westfield, which originally paid $106.4 million to acquire the 1.3-million-square-foot mall in 1998 from Crestwood Plaza Shopping Center, a subsidiary of Hycel Properties. Westfield purchased the property at that time under the name Westfield America.

Westfield is an Australian-based company with interests in more than 120 shopping centers in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

When Westfield bought Crestwood Plaza, the shopping center was vibrant, vacancies practically were non-existent and foot traffic was exceptional. But since then, it would seem that Westfield was only interested in sucking as much money as it could out of the shopping center without putting anything back in it.

That shouldn’t surprise anyone, though, because soon after Westfield came to the region in the mid-1990s, it was seeking corporate welfare.

In the fall of 1996, Westfield announced it was seeking up to $40 million in tax-increment financing assistance for a $200 million revitalization of the South County Center mall.

That request didn’t fly and the shopping center ended up being revitalized without the use of tax tools.

But in Des Peres, Westfield received nearly $30 million in TIF assistance and completely rebuilt the Westfield Shoppingtown West County at a cost of nearly $240 million.

Certainly the improvements at the west county and south county malls played a large role in the decline of the Crestwood mall. The resulting decline in sales-tax revenue has severely impacted the city’s ability to provide vital services to its residents.

Like we said, good riddance to Westfield. The sale of the Crestwood mall is good news for the city and its residents. Despite uniformed claims of “we’re back” by some, the shopping center is a long way from being revitalized. Its location certainly is a detriment as well as its current condition.

But the fact that the new owners actually are interested in revitalizing the shopping center is a far cry from what Westfield has done since 1998 — nothing.

We wish both the city and the new owners success in revitalizing the shopping center.